John's Jottings

139. Modelling Fraud - January 2018

Posted on December 31, 2017 at 5:40 AM

There was disquiet at the Whirtleborough show. Words like ‘unfair’, ‘cheat’ and ‘fraud’ were said. It was after one of the awards went to a beautiful layout that ran faultlessly. But after the presentation, it transpired that the exhibitor had commissioned various people to build the baseboards, the track, the buildings and scenery, the electrics, the locos and most of the rolling stock. All he’d done was co-ordinate the project, sign a vast number of large cheques, and fill out the exhibitor’s questionnaire. Should he have really won?

“Of course” said Bill. “It was his layout. He gets the prize on behalf of the team.”

“But the team was made up entirely of hired hands,” Graham commented dismissively. “They’ve already got their rewards - in cash. He didn’t do any of the work himself.”

There was also concern over the winner in the scratch-built loco class. There were suspicions that all the entrant had done was adding details, like crew, fire irons, coal and lamps.

By contrast, the chap who came second had explained quite clearly on the accompanying label that he’d built the loco through to the primer stage. He listed the parts he’d bought in. He even named the professional who had done the painting, lettering and lining.”

“But how can you be sure?” Jim asked. “You can’t just call the winner a fraud. You need evidence. Is there definite proof?”

“He never talks about what he’s building. He never asks for advice. We’ve never seen him work on any model at club meeting,” one club member commented. “And he refuses point-blank to man a demo table at our show.”

“But some people prefer to work at home, where it’s quiet and they’ve got all the tools, materials and reference books they require readily to hand,” Fred suggested. “Not everybody likes other people gawping at them while they do delicate and detailed work.”

“And you can get distracted by people who want you to talk to them – to explain what you’re doing and why,” Paul added, once again revealing his experience-through-ignorance.

“They sometimes have the same sort of allegations at flower shows,” Jane responded. “Did the chap actually grow it himself, or was in bought a few days before-hand? To deal with this situation, some horticultural societies reserve the right to inspect the gardens and allotments of exhibitors in the run-up to a show, just to see what the gardener has actually got in his soil. Honourable competitors usually have no problem with this, provided the inspectors don’t reveal their cultural techniques to their rivals.”

“On real railways, it is standard practice for locomotives and rolling stock carry makers’ plates,” our chairman remarked. “Most other artists, like painters and sculptors and potters, sign their work, unless they are ashamed of it. Even for repairs, watch and clock-makers discreetly engrave their monograms and job numbers somewhere. Gas technicians and electricians are required to sign and date a logbook for each attendance.

I wonder,” he mused, “if models should also be signed, dated and numbered by their actual builder?”

“I know of one model railway where every building carries the name of its builders,” our chairman observed. “For demountable buildings, it’s on the underside. For fixed buildings, it’s on the back, or on the underside of the roof. For some components the names will only be seen when the model is taken apart. But the club encourages each contributing member to acknowledge their work and be recognised in this way.”

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